We’ll have 2 Friday the 13ths in 2019

September 13 is 2019’s first Friday the 13th. Exactly 13 weeks after it, 2019’s second Friday the 13th will fall in December. Zoinks! By the way, a fear of Friday the 13th is called friggatriskaidekaphobia.

A beach covered with plastic trash

Plastic pollution has entered fossil record, says study

A new study has found that plastic pollution is being deposited into the fossil record, with deposits increasing exponentially since 1945.

Schoolchildren holding letters spelling PANDIA

New names for 5 Jupiter moons

The naming suggestions in a contest – which ran from last February to April – ranged from the scholarly to the silly, these scientists said. We think you’ll like the winners.

A blocky asteroid, shaped somewhat like a spinning top.

What asteroid Ryugu told us

The Hayabusa2 mission has confirmed that – if asteroid Ryugu or a similar asteroid were to come dangerously close to Earth – we’d need to take care in trying to divert it, lest it break up into fragments that might then impact Earth.

Computer-generated image of the Vikram lander descending to the moon's surface.

India’s moon mission: “95% of mission objectives accomplished”

Saturday’s heartbreaking loss of contact with the Vikram lander – part of the Chandrayaan-2 mission to the moon – hasn’t changed the upbeat tone of India’s space science. Here’s what we know so far.

A man at a computer terminal with his head in his hands.

Contact with India moon lander lost, moments before touchdown

The Vikram lander was to have made India the 4th nation of Earth to soft land on the moon. Contact with it was lost just 1.3 miles (2.1 km) above the moon’s surface.

Hurricane Dorian: Why it’s so destructive

Dorian, the 2nd most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record, has devastated the Bahamas, with the death toll expected to rapidly rise as rescue work gets under way.

Evolution doesn’t proceed in a straight line

If you go by cartoons and T-shirts, you might think evolution proceeds as an orderly march toward a preordained finish line. But evolution has no endpoint in mind.

When did humans start altering Earth?

The ArchaeoGlobe Project assessed knowledge on human land use over the past 10,000 years, through the contributions of more than 200 archaeologists. It concluded that, by 3,000 years ago, most of Earth was already transformed by hunter-gatherers, farmers and pastoralists.

Webb telescope now assembled for 1st time

On August 28, 2019, NASA announced that the 2 halves of the James Webb Space Telescope have now been successfully connected. The telescope is being assembled at Northrop Grumman’s facilities in Redondo Beach, California.

September’s birthstone is the sapphire

Sapphires are typically blue stones, with the color caused by small amounts of titanium and iron in the crystal structure. But if the crystal contains different impurities, you might also see sapphires in gray, yellow, pale pink, orange, green, violet or brown.

Name NASA’s next Mars rover

The Mars 2020 rover, scheduled for launch next July, doesn’t have a name yet. A NASA contest invites U.S. students grades K–12 to suggest names for the rover.

Three scientists in a control room, peering at a computer screen.

Arecibo gets $19M grant to find and study NEOs

NEOs are near-Earth objects, asteroids and small comets that sweep near Earth and have the potential to cause harm. Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico has, since the 1990s, been finding about 60 to 120 of these objects every year.

Why the Amazon is burning: 4 reasons

Nearly 40,000 fires are burning in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, the latest outbreak in an overactive fire season. Don’t blame dry weather, say environmentalists. These Amazonian wildfires are a human-made disaster.

How many supermoons in 2019?

We had 3 full supermoons (close full moons) earlier this year. Now we’re having 3 new supermoons (close new moons). The dates are August 1 and 30, plus September 28. The August 30 supermoon will be the closest of this year.

Would you have believed the Great Moon Hoax?

It sounds preposterous today. But – beginning on today’s date in 1835 – a newspaper claimed a famous astronomer had found life on the moon, including bat-men and unicorns. The Great Moon Hoax was widely read and believed.

How did Pluto become a dwarf planet?

It’s been 13 years since astronomers announced Pluto would no longer be considered a major planet in our solar system. When it happened, in 2006, the decision caused a shock wave around the world.

In 1966, 1st photo of Earth from the moon

NASA released this 1st moon photo of Earth on August 23, 1966, via its spacecraft Lunar Orbiter 1. Years later, it used digital technology to restore the photo and reveal more detail.

Night sky behind Arecibo radio telescope steering mechanism.

Arecibo Observatory gets $12.3 million grant

Arecibo in Puerto Rico was completed in 1963. In recent years, it has weathered multiple hurricanes. The emergency supplemental funds – supported by the U.S. Congress – represent an investment in the future of this large, famous and much-loved radio dish.

Barren, rocky landscape with snow patches. Blue sky.

Astronomy ambassadors to Chile: ALMA radio telescope

Learn what it would be like to travel to Chile – sometimes called astronomy’s world capital – in this final report from Robert Pettengill with the Astronomy in Chile Educator Ambassador Program. Thank you for your dispatches, Rob!